Cyberpunk 2077 is out. Yes, at the start of the game a whole bunch of problems, but it will leave its mark on history, no doubt. At one time, the third “Witcher” showed what role-playing games in the open world can be and we still feel its influence, including in projects of large studios like Ubisoft . The impact of Cyberpunk 2077 is yet to be assessed – it is possible that we will get many more projects in this setting in the near future. In the meantime, we are waiting, it's time to study video game history, because the developers left us in abundance of original, but not too famous games in the world of a dystopian future, illuminated by neon flashes.
All Walls Must Fall – A Tech-Noir Tactics Game
Despite the turn-based gameplay, all Walls Must Fall mechanisms are based on time. Forget about the classic turn points – here precious seconds are spent on each action and this is not just another convention, but a completely logical element of the scenario. The fact is that the main character of the game, Kai, can control the flow of time. Therefore, when a terrorist attack using nuclear weapons was carried out in Berlin, Kai traveled back in time in an attempt to prevent a disaster. And for this he has only one night.
With a timeline, the protagonist can do almost anything. Slowing down, speeding up, freezing for others and making it flow for yourself – calculating, like Doctor Strange, a lot of options for the development of events, Kai finds the ideal outcome for every situation, manipulating the flow of time. The minutes allotted for the mission are spent both in exploring locations and in collisions with opponents, and each fight ends with a beautiful gluing of all your moves in a single sequence, which serves as a good reward for a sweaty duel.
All Walls Must Fall
Similar to Invisible, Inc. , the campaign in the game is generated anew each time, adding replayability to the project. And there are plenty of options for completing the task here: the principle of three “U” (“Kill, steal, persuade”) in the game works, if not always, then almost always. You can either speak the teeth of a stern bouncer on face control, or use drones to penetrate the ventilation and disable the security system, or you can just burst in with a gun at the ready, deftly dodging enemy shots and hiding behind cover.
Despite its modest budget, All Walls Must Fall looks damn stylish, reminiscent of the Tech Noir nightclub from the first “Terminator” . And this is a rather fresh look at the genre: the game does not have tired warehouses, factories and sewers – instead of them there are a lot of entertainment establishments with appropriate decorations and a soundtrack.
By a strange coincidence, the 90s gave us a lot of cult projects, both in the cyberpunk setting and with the participation of vampires. BloodNet mixed both of these ingredients in the same cauldron, but the result came out so-so – an eerily interesting concept is shattered into smithereens on a nasty implementation.
The gameplay is built around standard point-and-click adventure mechanics with solid handfuls of RPG elements. And if standard genre traits like dialogues and solving puzzles in the game work without failures, then everything else is infinitely far from ideal. Yes, character leveling and armed clashes seem to add a spark, but after just a couple of battles you will no longer want to participate in them – they are so poorly executed.
The developers managed to get into a puddle, even with graphics. Cyberpunk is generally one of the most stylish and easy to visualize settings, and the gothic aesthetics adorns it even more (cyberhottes confirm), but the authors had obvious problems with the artists. Two-dimensional character sprites moving across 3D backgrounds do not at all overlap with each other in style, the perspective of some locations plays some strange games, and the proportions of objects cannot get along with each other.
BloodNet can only captivate with the plot and unusual atmosphere – there are not enough stars from the sky, but the scenario is not enough, but after going through the pain and suffering of game mechanics, you suddenly find that you are following with interest the attempts of the protagonist to recover from vampirism, and at the same time, once and for all, solve the problem of bloodsuckers at least within the framework of noir-cyberpunk-gothic New York.
One of the unspoken rules of rendering cyberpunk is the prevailing Japanese motifs: ubiquitous hieroglyphs, chopsticks, samurai as a slang term for street mercenaries. There may be many reasons for this – these are the characteristic features of anime, which to a large extent formed the familiar look of cyberpunk, and a giant technological leap that raised Japan to a height unattainable for other countries and, as a result, made Tokyo a living personification of the neon future back in the 80s. x. Developers at Westwood Studios , however, decided to look at the setting from a different angle and in Circuit's Edge portrayed the world of a victorious Islamic culture.
It is quite clear that the adventure of 1989, made in 16 colors, with an abundance of role-playing elements and full of text, is unlikely to be of interest to the modern player, but the most persistent will spend many exciting hours on the streets of Budayin. The plot, however, does not shine with depth, even though the script is based on the novel When Gravity Fails. Everything is according to the classics: for the main character there is a typical loser detective, forced to earn money by selling not entirely legal goods. Arriving at the next deal, the protagonist finds his client a little dead, and the police who arrived in time, it seems, do not really believe in his innocence.
The gameplay is familiar: moving around locations, talking to NPCs, clashes with enemies, pumping skills. Nothing outstanding, but the game is valuable to others. Circuit's Edge is imbued with the spirit of cyberpunk (it's better to forget about the form within the EGA graphics). Budayin is a truly disgusting place, pumped up with all kinds of human vices and mixing the styles of the Arab countries, New Orleans and the tech cities of the future. Not the place you want to live in, but incredibly fun to explore.
CYPHER: Cyberpunk Text Adventure
The interactive fiction genre, which thundered in the 80s, now seems to be at the rear of the gaming industry. But this is not surprising – accustomed to luxurious graphics and non-stop action, players for the most part rarely want to read canvases of text that are not diluted with game mechanics. And completely in vain, because one skillfully written script is enough to captivate you for more than one evening. This is what CYPHER will do if you give him a chance.
Both stylistically and plot-wise, the game borrows the best from the best, but this does not turn into a talentless clone. The main character of CYPHER , who makes a living by delivering information on an implanted cyberimplant with a data warehouse (who said “Johnny Mnemonic”?), Fails another deal, and we have to deal with the consequences. The action takes place in Neo-Sushi, and rest assured, this city is riddled with neon and gloom no worse than Los Angeles from Blade Runner , references to which are visible here with the naked eye. As well as to “Neuromancer”.
Despite the practically unchanged gameplay since the 80s, the game still tries to keep up with the times, coloring streams of text with animated inserts, a cybernetic soundtrack and a lot of background sounds, gradually immersing the player in the noir atmosphere of dystopia. Moreover, the developers are so confident in the quality of their product that they say without undue modesty: “It doesn't matter how many games you play, we guarantee that CYPHER is different from all of them.” It's time to check if these words are at odds with the truth.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's rather lukewarm acceptance served to reinforce Square Enix 's passion for developing the franchise, and we have been living without quality immersive sims in an open cyberpunk world for four years now. And few people know that back in 2015, Dex came out, inheriting the ideas of Deus Ex , albeit in a slightly different form.
Despite the insipid plot, there is a strong plot hidden inside Dex , which raises questions of a completely philosophical nature. Fans of the setting, however, may have a feeling of the effect of a worn-out record, but this is not surprising. The cyberpunk philosophy revolves around a very specific set of elements, so returning to the same central theme is quite commonplace.
And do not be confused by the two-dimensional nature of the game – Dex copes with immersion in its gloomy world flawlessly. Quests almost always have several ways of completing them, the decisions you made will come back to haunt in the future, and the character's freedom of movement is almost unlimited. You can get to almost any location from the very beginning of the game, the main thing is to find a way. Moreover, this largely depends on the chosen path of pumping – there are no prepared classes in the game, but the development of skills quite dramatically changes the approach to passing and introduces completely new game mechanics.
Of course, the Dex budget comes through from all the cracks, but this is just the case when you can turn a blind eye to it: the developers fully compensated for the lack of finance with more important elements – plot, dialogues and immersiveness.
While the serial killer walking the streets of the city keeps the townspeople in fear, the protagonist of the game Ryan has strange dreams. Dreams about the Web of Dreams, into which, falling asleep, every person plunges. About the guardians, which governs the complex structure of the Web, which represents a single network of emotions, desires and vices of all people in it. About seven wicked, who decided to remove the true guardians and take their place, turning the Web of Dreams into a focus of evil and hatred. And who, if not Ryan, is destined to rid the world of this danger?
You just need to deal with the blackouts that visit Ryan from time to time. And why do they coincide so inappropriately with the time of the murders of this maniac? Okay, I can handle this somehow – the Dreamweb is in danger, and we can't hesitate. Damn keepers, why should I do all the dirty things? Who invented this network? Didn't I invent it myself?
Looking for game analogies, DreamWeb is most of all like a mixture of classic point-and-click-adventure with a very slow-motion Hotline Miami . The game is not shy about showing violence in an unattractive light – the developers have crammed so much cruelty that they even managed to cause a couple of major scandals in the media on release. But this is cyberpunk – dark, bloody, reducing the value of human life to zero. True, there are not so many recognizable visual references, but the atmosphere of the game is not to occupy.
DreamWeb easily immerses you in a state of insomnia, when the whole world seems illusory and you cannot understand whether you are sleeping or not. Are the events taking place real, or are they just hallucinations of the main character? The shaky present is constantly slipping away somewhere. Well, the solution is literally a couple of clicks from you, since 2012 the game has become absolutely free.
Gemini Rue has no top-notch graphics, no open world, and no multiplayer. But there is rain on gloomy streets, a gun in a holster, timid saxophone intros and a feeling of loneliness. A seemingly simple story about the release of the protagonist's brother from the Correction Center turns into a reflection on what makes a person human. Let attentive players be able to see through the twist already in the middle of the passage, this does not become less interesting.
An absolutely traditional point-and-click-adventure gameplay, right from the start, tenaciously grabs you by the collar and plunges you into its gloomy world. The game contains the same cyberpunk we are so used to: noir, neon, Japanese motives, street crime and sinister megacorporations. The game, which quickly became a cult at the time of its release (in Russia, the game was even released on CD with professional voice acting), now Gemini Rue is forgotten, so it's time to blow off the dust and return to the distant planet Barracus.
There are not so many competitive shooters in the cyberpunk setting – I just couldn't remember anything worthy. And when big developers are inactive, fans always come to the rescue, sometimes turning their favorite games into something completely new. NEOTOKYO is one of those – a multiplayer mod based on the Source engine, which carries the concept of a team “desmatch” in the scenery of Japan of the future. In short, neon Counter-Strike with a pinch of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege .
Structurally, the game is outrageously simple: two teams of opponents gather in one match, the match is divided into rounds, respawn after death occurs at the beginning of a new round. The overall shooting experience, thanks to the use of Source, sends a warm hello to the same Counter-Strike . From its own, NEOTOKYO has a choice of three character classes, differing in characteristics and equipment, as well as a greater emphasis on tactical interaction rather than mindless shooting.
And the most important thing is the insanely beautiful surroundings in which all these bloody battles take place. Of course, the modifications should be discounted for age – the game was released in 2009 – but even now neon Tokyo looks decent, and the composer NEOTOKYO composed such a killer soundtrack for the mod that it was heard at Eidos Montreal and Ed Harrison was hired to write music for Breach mode in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided .
Alas, in NEOTOKYO it is very difficult to find live servers. However, if you have a company of like-minded people, feel free to try, especially since NEOTOKYO can be downloaded for free.
In addition to the characteristic visual series, works in the cyberpunk setting are inseparable from the problems of high technology, artificial intelligence and other nanobots. And if there is a computer somewhere, there will certainly be someone who wants to hack it. Quadrilateral Cowboy is an attempt to link the simulated hacker with a full storytelling in the 80s retro-futurism aesthetic.
The core of the gameplay here is the hacking process itself. Moreover, unlike mini-games from some Deus Ex: Human Revolution , you enter all the commands here from your keyboard. But don't be alarmed – the Quadrilateral Cowboy primarily wants to tell a story and immerse you in its strange world, not test your programming knowledge. In extreme cases, you can turn on the “tourist mode”, which is impossible to lose.
In addition to the terminal, the main characters, of whom there are several, gain access to a whole bunch of gadgets, so there is a place in the game for physical interaction with objects and the environment. Much attention has been paid to tactility here – even your working “deck” you constantly carry with you, and you can spread it out anywhere.
Don't expect a graphic feast from the game – the entire environment is made in a cubic style a la Minecraft , but this does not make the Quadrilateral Cowboy worse. The main thing here is that very elusive atmosphere, successfully mixing hacker gameplay with sketches of the life of the main characters. And although outwardly the game does not evoke associations with the familiar look of cyberpunk, the essence of one element – hacking Quadrilateral Cowboy conveys to perfection.
Tales of the neon sea
The plot of Tales of the Neon Sea does not inspire much hope: the main character has chosen the office of a private detective, and in between cases he does not part with a bottle of alcohol. Further, as usual – someone's sudden death, investigation, robots and their rights, the struggle for life. We've seen all this more than once, but look how damn cool it all looks!
Mechanically, Tales of the Neon Sea is also not striking – this is an ordinary 2D adventure game with a side view, packed to capacity with puzzles. Heavily packed with puzzles. There are A LOT of PUZZLES here. Sometimes it seems that even a step cannot be taken without solving the next problem.
And this is perhaps the game's biggest problem. The pace of the narrative constantly stumbles over the next puzzle, and although they do not make the brain boil, but for the most part are rather boring, long, sometimes with non-obvious solutions. The only thing that saves the situation is the variety – there are plenty of variations of puzzles here, and fans of this kind of gameplay will obviously not be bored.
On the other hand, any impasse can be overcome by taking advantage of the passage – if necessary, have mercy on yourself and do it. The aesthetics of the game are simply mesmerizing, pixel art of this level of elaboration is not so common to be neglected, and a dark story on the streets of the Neon Sea will allay your dissatisfaction with poorly performing elements. Tales of the Neon Sea could have become a real masterpiece if its developers were more experienced, but even in this form, the game deserves attention.
City of Newton, near future. A killer hacker walks the streets, removing the brains of his victims in a way incompatible with life. The investigation is taken over by Dr. Regis – a Luddite scientist who is not particularly willing to accept all this high-tech stuff and prefers to act the old fashioned way. A detective story at first, is rapidly gaining momentum, capturing androids, virtual reality (available for research), genetic modifications and responsibility for the acts of the past into its circle.
Yes, visually and gameplay Technobabylon looks like Gemini Rue's twin brother, but who said it was bad? Even such a conservative genre as a quest tries to find new points of growth, experimenting with mechanics, then with the presentation of history, and a couple of interesting finds in the game are prepared for you. However, at its core, Technobabylon is just a great quest in the cyberpunk setting, and that's enough to get to know it.
There came an echo
Everything flows, everything changes, but the principles of the player's interaction with the game remain unchanged. The usual keyboard, mouse and gamepad have only recently moved off the pedestal thanks to the massive introduction of virtual reality, although before that there were attempts to diversify game interactions, including using voice control.
Yes, with the proliferation of smart speakers and digital assistants, voice control is gradually coming into our lives, but there are not so many video games “sharpened” for this way of interaction. There Came an Echo realizes this method with relative success, and given the futuristic scenery in which setting it is clear, this suits the game perfectly.
The game starts just like the first “Matrix” . Corrin, living in the office, receives a call from a certain Miranda, who, without preamble, says that the protagonist is about to be arrested, and invites him not to hesitate and do what she says. After a successful escape from the clutches of the invaders, the game smoothly transforms into a tactical strategy, and the voice control refreshes the classic genre quite well.
It is clear that giving orders to something other than controllers is rather unusual, but the game allows you to feel yourself in the shoes of a conventional Tank from the same “Matrix” . In a couple of hours you will be chasing commands like “At my signal, Corrin moves to point Alpha-4, Miranda – to Foxtrot-1 and opens fire” as if you have been doing this all your life.
Well, if all these experiments you are not interested, no one stops to take a good old mouse and simply enjoy a good story in the cybernetic decoration under the magnificent music of Ronald Jenkins (Ronald Jenkins). But I categorically do not recommend switching to a mouse – the game is not difficult, the pace of what is happening is noticeably slowed down so that the player has time to give voice commands, and it works great for immersion. ***
Of course, this list is far from complete. Dozens of unknown and possibly great games are safely buried in the vast bins of itch.io and Steam directories. And they will vegetate there and further until someone tells about them. We find something ourselves and present it to you in Refand, but it's time to tell about the rest right here and now, in the comments.